Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) overexpression is implicated in increased risk and poorer outcomes in breast cancer in young women. We investigated COX-2 regulation in normal premenopausal breast tissue and its relationship to malignancy in young women. Quantitative COX-2 immunohistochemistry was performed on adjacent normal and breast cancer tissues from 96 premenopausal women with known clinical reproductive histories, and on rat mammary glands with distinct ovarian hormone exposures. COX-2 expression in the normal breast epithelium varied more than 40-fold between women and was associated with COX-2 expression levels in ductal carcinoma in situ and invasive cancer. Normal breast COX-2 expression was independent of known breast cancer prognostic indicators, including tumor stage and clinical subtype, indicating that factors regulating physiological COX-2 expression may be the primary drivers of COX-2 expression in breast cancer. Ovarian hormones, particularly at pregnancy levels, were identified as modulators of COX-2 in normal mammary epithelium. However, serial breast biopsy analysis in nonpregnant premenopausal women suggested relatively stable baseline levels of COX-2 expression, which persisted independent of menstrual cycling. These data provide impetus to investigate how baseline COX-2 expression is regulated in premenopausal breast tissue because COX-2 levels in normal breast epithelium may prove to be an indicator of breast cancer risk in young women, and predict the chemopreventive and therapeutic efficacy of COX-2 inhibitors in this population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine